A man and woman have been arrested at Heathrow Airport in connection with female genital mutilation (FGM) offences overseas, Scotland Yard said. A woman, aged 49, and a man, aged 45, were arrested at the London airport after arriving on a flight from Nairobi, Kenya.
The Metropolitan Police said an eight-year-old girl who was travelling with the woman was taken into protective care. The man, who was not on the flight from Africa, was arrested at the airport.
The pair are being quizzed on suspicion of assisting a foreign person carry out FGM overseas. A south London school raised the alarm when one of its pupils failed to attend school and was believed to have been taken to war-torn Somalia.
The pair was arrested after MET officers from the Camberwell Child Abuse Investigation Team issued a FGM Prevention Order. FGM is a procedure that involves cutting a girl's genitals either partially or totally removing part of them for non-medical reasons.
The practice is most common in cultural, religious and social practice within families and communities in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, FGM causes long-lasting physical and psychological damage.
As a matter of legality doctors, nurses, midwives and teachers are now required to report cases of girls who have suffered FGM to police, or risk losing their jobs. The new rules, which came into force in October 2015, are in force in England and Wales when victims under 18 say they have been cut in the process of FGM or staff recognise the signs.
In February it was announced by the Department of Health that victims of female genital mutilation will be provided mental health support in England. According to the NHS, young victims receiving psychological counselling in the UK have reported feelings of betrayal by parents, as well as regret and anger.
An estimated 137,000 women in the UK are affected by FGM. However, the true extent is unknown due to the "hidden" nature of the crime, the NHS says. Globally, it is estimated that at least 200 million girls and women have undergone some form of FGM.
A MET spokesman added: "The man and woman have been arrested on suspicion of assisting a non-UK person to carry out FGM overseas. Both suspects have been taken into custody at a south London police station."